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Pauma Valley zipline company facing $25K in penalties over worker's fatal fall

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Posted at 10:55 AM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 20:17:48-05

PAUMA VALLEY, Calif. (CNS) — OSHA has proposed nearly $25,000 in penalties against a Pauma Valley zipline company for allegedly failing to provide adequate safety measures that could have prevented a worker's fatal fall.

The proposed penalties against La Jolla Zip Zoom Ziplines stem from the death of 34-year-old Joaquin Romero, who fell about 50 feet on Oct. 30, 2021.

The county medical examiner said Romero was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital via helicopter and arrived without a pulse. After admission to the hospital, a poor prognosis was given by medical staff and Romero's family decided to place him on comfort care measures until he was pronounced dead, the ME added.

OSHA Area Director Derek Engard said Romero was not wearing a harness when the incident happened.

"He was trying to catch one of the clients that was coming in and unfortunately, the momentum pulled him out back over the canyon and he was unable to hold on and he fell to his death," said Engard.

RELATED:Pauma Valley zip line worker who died helping rider identified

According to an OSHA investigation, the zipline company "failed to install a guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest system" and also did not train employees on how to recognize fall hazards. The company also "failed to assess the workplace to determine the presence of hazards and did not report a work-related hospitalization within 24 hours," according to OSHA.

"Unfortunately a young man lost his life and this was 100% preventable if his employer followed some basic safety precautions," said Engard.

In addition to $24,861 in proposed penalties, OSHA cited the company for four serious safety violations. Engard said that money does not usually go to the family, but rather a federal government fund.

Now, La Jolla Zip Zoom Ziplines has 15 days to either pay the citation, contest it or schedule a meeting with OSHA.

Engard said that citation amount is not chosen based on the fatality, but rather the violations.

"We show up, we try to determine what the hazards are and what could have been prevented, and that goes into our citations. The penalty amount can vary based upon the probability of the hazard and also the size of the employer," said Engard.

The company voluntarily closed operations after the incident and Engard said they were being cooperative with the investigation. According to their website, they are back open.

Engard added that fatalities caused by falls continue to be the leading cause of workplace deaths. If anyone in the San Diego region has questions or concerns about a company, they can call 619-557-5030.